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Hearing someone use the word “they” when describing a group of people –gay, Black, poor, immigrant, etc.–makes me wary and tired because I know I then have to tilt my head and say When you say ‘they,’ who exactly do you mean?
I hate doing this because I hate confrontation, however subtle. The question alone usually serves its purpose, but not if the response is You know what I’m talking about. Then I lie —Not really– and wait politely for the next response, and on and on until the point’s been made, the way this poem does with such succinct power.
Elliptical, by Harryette Mullen
They just can’t seem to . . . They should try harder to . . . They ought to be more . . . We all wish they weren’t so . . . They never . . . They always . . . Sometimes they . . . Once in a while they . . . However it is obvious that they . . . Their overall tendency has been . . . The consequences of which have been . . . They don’t appear to understand that . . . If only they would make an effort to . . . But we know how difficult it is for them to . . . Many of them remain unaware of . . . Some who should know better simply refuse to . . . Of course, their perspective has been limited by . . . On the other hand, they obviously feel entitled to . . . Certainly we can’t forget that they . . . Nor can it be denied that they . . . We know that this has had an enormous impact on their . . . Nevertheless their behavior strikes us as . . . Our interactions unfortunately have been . . .